Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"No more dots"

Most will have already seen this Gambit review of recently-published books authored by Jed Horne, Ivor van Heerden, Mark Schleifstein, and others, but a recent PGR comment caused me to revisit the review, where the following nugget stayed with me.

The Dutch rebuilt better and stronger after devastating 1953 floods, and Kobe residents rebuilt after the devastating 1995 earthquake. Will New Orleanians be able to rebuild?

Reviewer Jason Berry offered this concern:

Cities can and do recover if they have the will and the means to achieve it. Do New Orleanians have the will? There is so little outrage toward Nagin as to suggest a collective numbness. Absent a galvanizing mayor, getting Congressional support for a state-of-the-art hurricane-defense system will be somewhat difficult.

We New Orleans bloggers have for months and years been doing what we can to get the message out about Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration, and the astounding incompetence of See Ray Nagin, but if no one reads what we write, does it matter?

I'm disappointed to see local press organizations starting to fall back into their pre-Katrina mediocrity. WWL Radio, for example, appears to have fallen back into the Flush Limbaugh-sports-and-crime format.

I saw the incredible disappearing mayor (or his skull-buffed imposter) talking about housing on WWL TV yesterday. A video clip showed the poseur mayor saying that he thought the supply of housing stock would soon catch up with the demand -- to which any person with a high school education would have asked: "Okay Mr. Mayor. What exactly is the current housing supply and demand, and when precisely do you think supply will catch up with demand?" But no, the reporter wrapped up his tidy little story without as much as the spark of a thought about the most obvious question, letting the incompetent Ray Ray off the hook once again.

As for planning the rebuilding of neighborhoods (where again, the incredible disappearing mayor has been conspicuously absent), I'd like to strongly recommend Lucy's last New Orleans post (though I hope she'll be back to offer more of her sharp insights in the future at Mapping Lucy). Lucy offered some incredibly-witty observations on the Unified New Orleans Plan process:
“No more dots” he kept saying, referring to the little stickers that he has put on endless maps at endless meetings to indicate where a school or firestation might go. At a UNOP meeting, he caused a stir by telling the facilitator that he could do her job, “I can get up there and ask you what you want and write it down on a list”. ...

The House of Dance and Feathers is a symbol of hope, a catalyst for action and a means to nurture one of New Orleans most unique cultures, the Mardi Gras Indians. But could it have ever materialised within the context of the city-led planning process? I doubt it. ...

I thought of those slides of empty meetings, whiteboards and sharpies, and decided the official planners could do with spending half an hour at St Augustine and the House of Dance and Feathers if they need some new ideas about what really motivates the citizens of New Orleans to ‘participate’.

Michael Homan can explain to you what those annoying little red dots are.

If you decided not to read Lucy's post, here's another reason to visit -- she posted a new pen-and-ink illustration, this one portraying the the House of Dance and Feathers. You won't be disappointed.

Thank you Lucy for spending time in our city, for helping to create a model for rebirth, and for celebrating the true culture of New Orleans!

Tags: | | | | | | | | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option


At 8/22/2006 07:39:00 AM, Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

I liked that story, I can certainly see their frustration, lets connect some Dots now, The Dutch had a much better foundation to build on. Like Norway, the Dutch had much better understanding of the intimate relationship between human rights and the environment. I think we should try to find some of the answers asked in the Sophie prize?

Check out these indexes and look where Norway, the Dutch, and Japan are compared to us. Press freedom index"

Economic Freedom Index
Human Development Index

GDP per capita

And New Orleans would certainly sit differently on this chart relative to America in General.

You should work on restoring the Democratic nature of the local political system and putting some transparency in place. A lot of you bloggers should be running for office like this guy, not necassaryily for this party, but for the same reason and the same effect...

lets not confuse transparency with all the whinning and ranting being disucussed at the planning meetings. The first step of Transparency is having all of the information in public view. Once that happens, most people won’t know what to do with it. especially in complicated planning issues and New Urbanism. Sometimes it is simple, if you were to put all the propertie tax assessments onlilne you could sit back and watch everyone start going crazy and asking a lot of questions. “Why is this huge house right next to my little shack only paying $700 dollars a year, while I am paying $3000 dollars a year?”
You can relax at this point because people can start governing themselves. The real heroes moving these issues should be the taxpayers: members of the community and unions, neighborhood groups , bloggers, budget watchdog groups, human rights groups , budget watchdog groups, investigative journalists, environmentalists and land-use activists and whoever else is interested in making our government more transparent. Lets encourage Diversity and create a better and reformed democratic nature that aims to benefit the whole community and not just the politically connected. The more folks poking around, uncovering things the bettter.

You have a long way to go and a lot of democratic nature to restore before trasparanency in complicated issues like city planning starts getting any real traction.

But once it does…

At 8/22/2006 09:39:00 PM, Blogger bayoustjohndavid said...

"and the astounding incompetence of See Ray Nagin, but if no one reads what we write, does it matter?"

If no one reads, no one reads. Nothing to do about that. But in a comment on a recent post I suggested making questions more specific. The ones I've come up with--why are there so many more employees in the mayor's office than on the street repair crews, did the city really pay to clean and then replace its already overpriced garbage cans--might seem trivial, but they can't evaded with "this was the worst disaster any American city has ever faced." Of course people need to ask the press why it waits until after the contracts have been awarded to report on ones like that recent Kimberly Butler fiasco. If they don't have access to the details until after the fact, why don't they demand it?

What to do about the national perception, is too complex to go into in a comment. I do think that anyone who thinks being too critical of our local leaders could be damaging to our efforts to get national aid or investment is wrong. Even if it points out apparent corruption, better for locals to point it out than CNN or the FBI.

At 8/23/2006 06:06:00 AM, Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

Now your are talking, Every city has these issues to some degree or another. citys with the most people screaming and groups working together for change don't hold back any punches.


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